When Sydney Kings championship winner Justin Simon told Courtney Alexander II he would love life down under, he had no hesitation to sign at the Cockburn Cougars and it’s already surpassing all expectations that he had.
Alexander is currently in a rich vein of form in his first NBL1 West season at the Cougars averaging 26.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists over the past four matches to be instrumental in Cockburn’s season getting back on track.
It’s no coincidence that Alexander’s scintillating form has helped the Cougars now win three of their past five matches, and those two losses in that period were tight affairs to the Joondalup Wolves and Perth Redbacks that could have gone the other way.
Alexander might be hard on himself for a slightly slow start to the season, but given it was his first time in the country and he arrived a week before the season, had two training sessions and then also got sick before his debut, maybe he shouldn’t be so tough on himself.
After all, he’s now delivering the type of basketball that shows just why coach Andrew Cooper labelled him an MVP calibre talent coming into the season, and he couldn’t be happier with the way things are panning out.
“I’m definitely feeling good now but I am pretty frustrated that it took me as long as it did to get rolling because I felt like I let the team down in a couple of those close games,” Alexander said.
“I just know I wasn’t playing to my potential and how I was supposed to play, but definitely now I’m just trying to play my basketball to get those wins for us.
“I’m not one to make huge excuses but it definitely takes time to make the adjustments. The team has been patient with me and especially Coops, he’s probably been my biggest supporter.
“He kept telling me it was going to come and that he believes in me, and the team believes in me. He kept saying when it clicks it was going to click so the past few weeks that’s started to happen and that’s been good to help the team get some wins.”
Tracing back and coming out of spending four years at Tennessee Tech including a senior year where he averaged 7.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists a game, Alexander started life as a pro in the G-League at the Oklahoma City Blue and then playing in Bulgaria with Tundja Yambol.
However, he was after a bit of a fresh start this year and he heard nothing but good things about life and the basketball in Australia. A lot of that came from Justin Simon who is an NBL Best Defensive Player and fresh off being instrumental in the Sydney Kings winning the NBL23 championship.
Once he saw what Simon was doing in the NBL, instantly Alexander set himself the goal of reaching the league himself one day so when an NBL1 club like the Cougars came calling, he didn’t need much convincing to sign on.
Now that he has been in Perth for a couple of months and has settled in on and off the court, he absolutely sees it as somewhere he could settle for the long haul.
“One of my friends who I go way back with is Justin Simon,” Alexander said.
“He played with the Sydney Kings this past season and I’ve talked to him a little bit about the country before I signed. He just told me that I would love the country and he’s been right. I’ve loved everything about it so far and the feedback from him was on the money.
“One of my biggest goals has been to play in the NBL once I started to hear about how good it was becoming. I thought this would put me in a better place to reach that goal. I love everything about the country honestly.”
While Alexander’s mother has made him promise he won’t stay in Australia forever, he sees no reason he wouldn’t be happy to keep playing at NBL1 level until he achieves that goal of earning an NBL opportunity.
“My mum jokes around and says that she just hopes I come back to the States one day when I tell her how much I love it here,” he said.
“I love the community, they’ve definitely accepted me and I love everything about the place so far. If the NBL ever has an opportunity for me, I’ll be taking that for sure.
“I definitely could see myself staying here for a long time. I love everything about it. It’s good basketball, a beautiful place to live and beautiful people. I love the weather too.
“I like to just go down to the beach some days and I don’t have to get in the water, the weather’s so good I can just lay down and read a book. It’s just so peaceful, I love it.”
Going back to the start of the season and it was quite a whirlwind for Alexander who arrived in Perth a week out from the start of the season.
He had two training sessions that week with the Cougars and then came down with a bout of food poisoning on the eve of the season-opener against Willetton, which turned out to be a horror 42-point home loss.
It was a rough start to the season all-round with five consecutive losses for Cockburn, but Alexander delivered a huge fourth quarter in the first win against the Lakeside Lightning and the momentum has continued to build from there.
Alexander put up 33 points and 14 rebounds against Joondalup, 30 points, 12 boards and five assists against the Slammers, and is fresh off 28 points and 12 rebounds in last Sunday’s 30-point win against the East Perth Eagles.
He is enjoying the way things are going now and is thankful for the patience coach Andrew Cooper had with him, and for the bond that they have already been able to create.
“It was definitely an adjustment but I love the team and I love Coops so they definitely helped me feel at home straight away, but it still takes some time,” Alexander said.
“You have to learn the team, learn the system and where I fit in with the role they want me to play. I’ve found once I’ve found that role and got comfortable with everything I definitely have started to feel better out there.
“I definitely love Coops already. Especially going through the tough times that he has been, I’ve told him that he is just so inspiring to me as a man and not just a basketball player with the strength he has shown.
“He is definitely hard on me as he should be, but it comes from a place of love and he keeps me going and even on bad days, just tells me to keep my head. He believes in me and other than my dad, he’s my biggest supporter. I tell my dad that Coops might even think I’m a better player than he does. I definitely love Coops, man.”
Another man at the Cougars that Alexander has formed an instant bond with is captain Gavin Field. Alexander was proud to be part of his 300-game celebrations and would now love to help him win another championship.
“He is another person who I get so much inspiration from,” he said.
“I see how much he’s given to the club and I tell him all the time, I’m here to help you play better and to help us get wins, and I want to be part of his legacy and try to give him a championship. I know how much this club and this community means to him.”
With the Cougars having won three of their past five matches and having gone close in those two losses in that stretch, Alexander likes the way the team is coming together and likes their prospects for the rest of the season.
“We’re a pretty young team so seeing the young guys grow, and accepting their roles has been great,” Alexander said.
“We need everybody too and I feel like we are such a well-rounded team all around. A lot of these other teams have a great few players, but I definitely feel like we are one of the deeper teams with the overall talent we have across the board. Seeing the young guys grow and us gel as a team has definitely been fun.”